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Is the F word co-opted by conservatives & consumerist media? Where are real icons & core values? On The Issues Magazine, Winter 2011, considers feminist icons, feminist values and feminist cons.
   

Republicans Aim to ‘Divide and Conquer’
by Lu Bailey

There’s something very peculiar about what has happened in American politics during the last election cycle. The Republican party has tried to convince the nation that it has turned into the party that advances the agenda of women and African Americans and other minorities. At the same time, conservatives used race (the fear of a black man) and gender (the perceived frailties of white women and the need to protect them) to divide us from each other and to scare and trick the nation into thinking a group of rich, white men are looking out for the middle class.

As proof that they are looking out for women, they like to point to their high profile slate of female candidates for office: Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, Michele Bachmann in Minnesota, and of course the ring leader, Sarah Palin, from the place where she can see Russia from her house. But this year the Republicans also presented female candidates who have some money and muscle: Women like Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, Nikki Haley, and Linda McMahon. Clearly, group #1 (the Tea Party darlings) encompass the female face the Republicans want to advance publicly.

On the surface, it looks like the Republicans have come a long way on women‘s rights, as they tout their fabulous females, but upon further inspection, we see that these women are not friends of freedom for women, but are actually obstacles to progress. During this political cycle, the conservatives (both Republicans and the Tea Party brass) are just playing an old game with new players.

Instead of using grumpy-looking, white haired gentlemen to bemoan the lifestyle of today’s modern women, the conservatives have decided to use pleasing-looking, bright and shiny women to do their dirty work for them. This is the new “shill” game -- a group of women, motivated by self-interest, who promote an agenda that’s anti-women and that benefits those who gain when women lose.

Clearly, this strategy has paid off. I’ve heard political pundits, as well as some of my associates, state that the Republicans can’t be anti-women because they have Sarah Palin running for president.

Some have also been led to believe that the Republicans now have a “big tent” philosophy because they elected Michael Steele as the first African American to lead the Republican National Committee.

Focus on difference in order to dominate

This con game reminds me of the infamous Willie Lynch letter in which Lynch tells his fellow slave owners that he has a "fool-proof method for controlling your black slaves," and guarantees that "if installed correctly it will control the slaves for at least 300 years." There is much debate about whether the Lynch letter is actually authentic, and some scholars have even called it a hoax. But whats not open for debate is the impact and effectiveness of what was written in the letter and how the recommendations (real or imagined) have been implemented.

Amazing numbers of people are willing to be pawns in the Republicans game

In the letter, Lynch suggests that slave owners focus on the differences between slaves “and make them bigger” so they can “use fear, distrust, and envy for control purposes.“ Here are the differences he mentions: “On the top of my list is ‘Age’. . . the second is ‘Color’ or shade; there is intelligence, size, sex, size of plantations, attitude of owners, whether the slaves live in the valley, on a hill, East, West, North, South, have fine or coarse hair, or is tall or short. “

Think hard about how the list of differences is applicable today. The Willie Lynch document, fact or fiction, is in full effect and continues to oppress numerous black folks. But now the concept is being used against American women, too. Instead of using the word “slave” or “black,” insert “woman” or “women.” And instead of using color, try using body size and type.

Hair texture seems to transcend race and ethnicity -- nobody likes coarse hair. Lastly, replace the reference to where slaves live, with how women are categorized (married, single, straight, or lesbian). Oppression is indeed universal.

The Lynch letter also suggests that the slave owners use other black slaves as shills to control the larger slave population. Surely, the plantation owner can’t be that bad of a guy if he “trust” a black slave to keep the other slaves in line.

This strategy gave us Michael Steele, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, and perhaps even former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice (although she may get a pass for being a former staffer for presidential hopeful and former U.S. Senator, Gary Hart).

The Willie Lynch model used other black slaves as shills for advancing the agenda of the plantation owners. It was counterproductive to have slave owners constantly beating and killing slaves because just the very sight of a hanging black body from a tree, could (and did) give birth to an insurrection.

But, when you have other blacks take on the role of enforcer with perceived benefits associated with the position, the plantation owner is taken off the hook, and mistrust, misinformation, envy, and jealousy take root in the community of slaves.

Midterm Election Lessons

I’ve always believed that, politically, the U.S. is divided into three sections: the left, the right, and the mushy middle. As we all witnessed during the mid-term elections this month, the big fight was for the mushy middle, which tends to be represented by less educated voters who are not well-informed on the issues (with the exception of the self-identified independents).

In this election the ‘mushy middle’ voter was bamboozled

In this election, the “mushy middle” voter was tricked, hoodwinked, and bamboozled -- much like the slaves referenced in the Willie Lynch letter. Sure, the Republicans presented a number of female, African American, and even Latino candidates, but did those candidates represent the heart-and-soul of women and people of color or were they merely used as shills for “The Man?”

These acts were calculated and contrived to baffle both African Americans and women, appease the mushy middle, and create a feeding frenzy for the media.

The Republican Tea Party used its female contingent to appeal to the mushy middle by collectively presenting their saccharin smiles and artificial concern for struggling families. Even though most of the Republican women running for office didn’t win, they convinced millions of voters to turn away from a Democratic Party and agenda that, on paper and in its legislative agenda, has passed legislation that will indeed help the mushy middle.

What’s truly amazing is how they conservatives keep going back to the Willie Lynch bag of tricks, and what’s even more amazing, and sad, is the number of people willing to be used as pawns in their “shill” game.

Now that the election is over, political strategists and historians are developing a number of theories about how to interpret the will of the voter. Of course, many in the media believe that the American public spoke up and rejected President Obama’s liberal agenda.

Based on the people I spoke with, both Democrats and Republicans, they were just fed up with politicians who are ineffective. So, what this tells me is that the conservatives did a great job at tricking the American voting public into thinking that the Democrats (and their policies) were ineffective. But, let’s not give all the credit to Carl Rove and his minions. The Democrats did an even better job of running away from their accomplishments because they too became victims of Willie Lynch 2010 (using Democrats against other Democrats).

Women can’t afford to fall victim to these scams. We have too much on the line to secure and preserve.


Lu Bailey is the former president of the Chicago Council on Urban Affairs and the co-founder of the Women of the Millennium Project (an initiative to build partnerships and collaborations among racially diverse groups of women). Currently, she‘s working as a fundraising consultant for a program that provides “green” job training skills for low-income youth. She is also a recipient of several awards, including the Metropolitan Chicago and Lake County, Illinois YWCA Racial Justice Award.

Also see Fighting the Black Anti-Abortion Campaign: Trusting Black Women by Loretta J. Ross in this edition of On The Issues Magazine.

Also see Next Chapter in the 'Republican War Against Women' by Tanya Melich in this edition of On The Issues Magazine.

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